An estimated crowd of 102,000 fans streamed through the Albert Park gates as Melbourne turned on glorious weather for the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019.
And Mercedes drew first blood in the new season, Valtteri Bottas recording a dominating win by more than 20 seconds.
Lewis Hamilton completed a Mercedes one-two on a superb day for the Silver Arrows as Ferrari failed to record a top-three finish in Melbourne for the first time since 2014.
Hamilton started from pole after setting a track record time in Saturday’s qualifying session at Albert Park.
But he could not maintain his lead going into Turn 1, Bottas starting brightly to nudge ahead of his teammate.
Local favourite Daniel Ricciardo started in a lowly 12th position after missing out on the final qualifying session by just 0.038 seconds.
And the Australian’s race went horribly wrong, the Renault driver dismantling his front wing before the opening corner after taking to the grass in an attempt to pass Sergio Perez in 10th.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was the first retirement of the race when his MCL34 caught fire at the entry of the Pit Lane.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean became the second driver to record a do not finish, forced to pull over with a loose front-left tyre – shockingly similar to his heartbreaking retirement in Melbourne last year.
Ricciardo would eventually return to the garage, too, when his team decided to retire his car due to a lack of pace.
The 29-year-old endured more than just a broken front wing, with damage underneath his car hampering his performance so much he quickly became lapped by race leader Bottas.
Ricciardo’s retirement was his second did not finish in three years at Albert Park.
Meanwhile, a battle was brewing at the top end of the field as the fastest lap – now with an extra championship point on the line – was up for grabs.
The rule returned to Formula 1® for the first time in 60 years, meaning an additional 21 points was available to drivers throughout the season – bringing an exciting new aspect to the championship race.
Bottas snatched the honour from Verstappen in the dying stages of the race, recording a time of 1:25.580 on the penultimate lap.
The Finn crossed the line a whopping 20.886 seconds ahead of his teammate Hamilton with Max Verstappen third, Honda’s first podium in over ten years in the RB15.
Multiple world champion Vettel and Leclerc could only manage fourth and fifth in their Ferraris, a worrying 57.109 seconds off the Silver Arrows.
The Finn’s fourth career win was his maiden victory in Melbourne and first since the end of the 2017 season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.